Two politicians want to take down the Confederate statues in the U.S. Capitol

Sen. Cory Booker said he would introduce a bill to remove the monuments to white supremacy, a move backed by Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Tourists walks past the Capitol Building in Washington, Monday, July 17, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
Tourists walks past the Capitol Building in Washington, Monday, July 17, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

While President Donald Trump spent Thursday morning tweeting about the “beauty” of monuments to slavery, at least two politicians are calling to remove them from the U.S. Capitol building.

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) tweeted on Wednesday night that he would introduce a bill taking down Confederate statues in the building, though he did not give a specific timeline or indicate when the bill would be brought forward.

“I will be introducing a bill to remove Confederate statues from the US Capitol building,” he wrote. “This is just one step. We have much work to do.”

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) joined Booker’s call to action on Thursday.

“If Republicans are serious about rejecting white supremacy, I call upon Speaker Ryan to join Democrats to remove the Confederate statues from the Capitol immediately,” Pelosi said.


Booker’s and Pelosi’s statements come days after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which sprung up in response to the city’s plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The violence at the rally—which ultimately resulted in three deaths, including a woman who was hit with a car by a white supremacist—has renewed the effort to take down monuments to slavery around the country.

The president—who has been slow to condemn the white supremacists in Charlottesville, initially accusing “many sides” of escalating the violence—has maintained support for Confederate monuments, referring to the city’s statue of Lee as “a very, very important statue.”

The president doubled down on that rhetoric Thursday morning, speaking out against efforts to take down symbols of the Confederacy.

“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”

Trump’s tweets seem unlikely to sway the growing calls to remove the monuments across the country. Efforts to remove some Confederate statues were already underway in some areas, including New Orleans, Louisiana, but the tragedy in Charlottesville has spurred swifter action.


In Baltimore, Maryland, statues were removed quietly in the dead of night on Tuesday, while in Durham, North Carolina activists took matters into their own hands and took a statue down themselves on Monday. Governors in both North Carolina and Virginia have also called for all Confederate monuments in their states to come down. Adding to the growing clamor, New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced Wednesday evening that the city will conduct a 90-day review of “all symbols of hate on city property.” While it is not immediately clear which symbols will be targeted, some have pointed to plaques and sidewalk markers memorializing Nazi collaborators.

DeBlasio’s comments have drawn attention to a truth not often discussed outside of the South: Confederate statues and other monuments to white supremacy dot enclaves all over the United States—including the U.S. Capitol building, the target of Booker’s proposed bill.

In the National Statuary Hall Collection alone, there are three times as many monuments to the Confederacy as there are of black people in the entirety of the Capitol. The Collection contains 100 statues—two from each state. While state governments are responsible for the offerings, not a single one has called for a state commemorating a historical black figure. Twelve statues, by contrast, honor people connected to the Confederacy. Both Mississippi and South Carolina are exclusively represented by Confederate figures, with the latter having notably chosen white supremacist paramilitary group member Wade Hampton and the pro-slavery politician John Calhoun.

That reality doesn’t seem to be lost on Booker, who followed up his initial tweet announcing the bill with several links expanding on the history of slave rebellions and uprisings in the South, many of which lack commemorative statues and monuments. Booker also elevated unmarked incidents of white brutality against black people. Sharing one tweet about the 1873 Colfax Massacre, which saw 150 black men murdered by white Southerners, Booker expressed his remorse.

“Most do not know of this tragic episode in American history and how it was rewritten by white supremacy,” Booker commented.


While Booker has Pelosi’s support, he is likely to meet resistance elsewhere. A spokesperson for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that the removal of such monuments are “decisions for those states to make,” not something Congress can decide. Trump has yet to weigh in on Booker’s proposed bill, or on the issue of Confederate monuments in the U.S. Capitol building specifically.